With my time at DTS rapidly approaching, my thoughts have turned to “what could have been”: seeing as I am now supposed to be a “Master of Theology,” what holes do I really wish were filled? Obviously, no degree program can do everything, but there’s enough classes that do nothing that I think there’s room for improvement…
1. OT/NT/Biblical Theology. My training in exegesis of different books is fairly strong after my courses here, but the curriculum does little to “put it all together” in terms of what a truly “biblical theology” might look like. Granted, this might be seeing too much unity for some people’s taste, but for those who recognize the canon as possessing hermeneutical significance, it’s something that needs to be wrestled with.
2. History of NT Interpretation. If the NT department could have offered one elective, this would have been it: as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes we have this attitude of “just me and my Bible” that doesn’t care much for what others have said along the way (apart from recent conservative commentators). Again, there is an infinite amount of reading that could be done in this area, but it seems dangerously negligent to basically take Baur, Bultmann, Barth, etc. (what is it about “B” names? I need to get one) out of the conversation.
3. Early Patristic Exegesis. How did the early church read Scripture? How might their interpretations illuminate our understanding of the Old and New Testaments? Sadly, you could make it through the curriculum without even considering these questions. In the classes I’ve graded/TA’ed for, I’ve encouraged students to at least consult IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary series and discover that different ways of reading the text are possible (and, in fact, might be more distinctively Christian, than some of ours).
Looking at what I’ve written, it seems like these all come down to the issue of hermeneutics. There’s lots of good stuff going on at DTS, particularly at the level of exegesis of the biblical text, but the next move–taking this exegesis and allowing it to interact with the rest of Scripture, with the early church, and with modern theologians–is absent. Agree/disagree? Comment below!
I would agree with all three of those, and try to take them. Yet I’m not sure how well “Patristic Exegesis” would go, since nothing learned could be applied to the historical/literal/grammatical exegesis hermeneutic.
All the more reason for you to come back and teach it some day?